Horsham Australia Day celebrations focus on volunteering

COMMUNITY was central to this year's Australia Day celebrations in Horsham on Sunday.

The shire's Citizen of the Year James 'Jim' Heard and Young Citizen of the Year Matthew Bray both spoke during their Australia Day Award acceptance speeches about the benefits of volunteering.

"What's really important are those friendships and bonds you can have with people," Matthew said.

Wimmera Machinery Field Days representatives Andrew Bell and Murray Wilson also highlighted the importance of bringing the community together as they received the award for Community Event of the Year.

For Horsham's Australia Day ambassador, racing identity Tony Cavanagh, the turn-out at yesterday's 8am ceremony was indicative of the strength of the municipality.

At least 100 people woke early to go to the Sawyer Park soundshell to reflect on life in the lucky country.

"For so many people to gather here today as one is a tribute to the character and fighting spirit that epitomises Australians," Mr Cavanagh said.

Special mention was made of Horsham Mayor David Grimble, whose dedication to his community continued unwavered despite damage to his property.

Horsham Christian Ministers Association's Major Carolyn Wright also prayed for those affected by the bushfires. "We pray for their families as they begin the process of starting over again," she said.

"And we are thankful for all those who strive to help them in their time of need."

Three people also became Australian citizens at the event.

Karen woman Marina Pae Htoo was the final member of her family to become an Australian.

She, her husband Doe Soe and their daughters Angelina, 3, and Oh Pweh Moo, 6, could not stop smiling.

Their family relocated to Australia six years ago after living in refugee camps on the Thai-Myanmar border.

Joseph Jinto and his wife Neena Francis were also among the shire's newest citizens. Mr Jinto said when he reflected on life in Australia, he felt a sense of freedom and safety.

Ceremony attendees also cheered on former Horsham resident Adam Goodes, who on Saturday added Australian of the Year to an already long list of achievements.

The Sydney Swans AFL player, 35, won for his leadership in the fight against racism.

Australia Day ceremonies also took place in Natimuk and Dadswells Bridge.

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